Monday, December 31, 2012

Family depression

The recent school shooting has brought mental illness and how families deal with it into spotlight once again.  The blame game has been played (the mother should have known, should have gotten her son help, the signs were there, etc.).  It's good to try to look for root causes to prevent future problems if at all possible, but her son was legally an adult.  And just because you want to help your adult children or adult siblings, doesn't guarantee that they get help, or that if they get help, they will be fixed by it.  The human mind is an unbelievably complex thing.

This is much on my mind as I watch and wonder if my sister is spiraling further into mental illness.  She is an adult, nearly 30, and she has suffered from depression (untreated) for years.  We have asked her if there is some reason for the way she treats my father (the kind of treatment one would expect from someone toward their rapist/abuser).  She has promised us that it's nothing like that.  He just sniffs, and she can't stand it.  That's all. 

Depression runs in my family.  (As Miles says, "We give it to each other.")  My mom has explained the briefest bit of her childhood struggles with it in her dysfunctional family.  She later sought treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, and her mental health has improved.

My sister has not sought treatment.  Instead, she has always had many excuses.  We are reaching the end of our patience for excuses. 

We, her loving family, are tired of watching her hurt us.  Some of us think she is fully in possession of her mental faculties and is choosing to act in cruel ways.  I think maybe this is related to OCD, depression, and maybe other mental health problems.  Either way, she needs help.

I think a reason I lean towards mental illness is because I don't want to believe that she is capable of deciding to act with such cruely while mentally balanced.  I don't want her treatment of my father and her distancing from my mother and her decision to end her friendship with me to be possible if she is in full possession of her wits.  That would hurt too much.  I would rather have something to blame it on.  I have that luxury because I live several states away and am naturally someone who does not need the company and affection of others. 

My parents who live with her do not have that luxury.  They just have the hurt.  And it's eating at them, threatening their mental health.  It has to be stopped.  But how?  I'm praying.  But I can't help thinking there is no right answer.  Having a loved one with mental health issues is not a simple situation with a single right answer.

If you are ever tempted to point fingers and blame when you encounter a situation like this, well, maybe hold that thought.  Humans and human relationships and love in a fallen world are messy, and it's always easier to point from outside, especially after the fact, to try to make neat conclusions once all the chips have fallen.  But inside, it is sad and scary and messy.  Please remember that.  Be careful how you judge.

And please pray.  Because I don't really know how to right now.

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